How to make the perfect picnic

How to make the perfect picnic

by Nancy Anne Harbord 22 July 2015

Get set for summer with top tips on creating the perfect picnic. These simple tips can help you most of outdoor occasions and let you enjoy spending time eating al fresco with family and friends.

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

Picnic season is finally here with summer festivals all offering fantastic picnicking opportunities. There’s Proms in the Park (nationwide), Opera in Holland Park (London), the Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival (Yorkshire) and Glyndebourne (Sussex) for musical entertainment.

Or just gather together friends and family and head for the hills. Or the park. Or even the garden. Enjoy the sun, catch up with loved ones and relax, relax, relax. And eat. Almost everything tastes better eaten in the sun, but for a truly delicious picnic there are a few factors to consider…

Packing and serving

Forget paper and plastic – for a truly luxurious experience, only real plates and glassware will do. Delicate bone china and crystal are probably not good options, but some sturdy ceramics and stem-free glasses (less likely to topple) will elevate the experience to something truly special. It also avoids a slew of paper or plastic ending up in a landfill. Fabric napkins are a lovely touch and are also great for wrapping glass and ceramics in transit.

If you aren’t using a cool box, freeze small bottles of juice and pack with the food. Not only will they help keep the food cool, you’ll be much more likely to have something cold to drink with your perfect picnic. And if they haven’t defrosted sufficiently in time, you can enjoy impromptu granita!


Wine is the obvious choice, with rosé often a popular choice for summer picnics, but consider drinking British ale or cider instead – both are very drinkable without the intervention of a fridge.

Or for a child-friendly, hydrating option, see our guide on how to make elderflower cordial or if it’s a healthy drink you’re after, this Baobab smoothie is fruity, refreshing and light.


All cheeses taste better when served at room temperature, with most benefiting from at least an hour out of the fridge. Properly served cheese has better texture and the flavours will be more pronounced and complex. So the time you spend in transit, as well as the time spent luxuriating on the grass, is time well spent for your cheese.

Bring a lovely British cheese, such as Davidstow Cheddar from Cornwall – it will stand up well to the journey and its robust, full flavoured and creamy notes work well with a wide range of accompaniments. Alternatively, bring a young goat’s cheese or matured blue from one of the nation’s wonderful traditional dairies. And if you can’t decide, bring a platter!

For accompaniments, try these Pumpkin seed and thyme oatcakes, or other flavoured crackers for something to pile the cheese on. For a little added piquancy, Anna Hansen’s Gooseberry chutney is a good choice.

Dishes with cheese as a key flavouring are ever popular, so these Cheese straws by Nathan Outlaw or his Cornish Cheddar scones with pickled celery and grilled figs should travel and serve well.

Pastries, pies and scotch eggs

Pastries, pies, tarts and quiches are excellent too. This Pork pie from Paul Foster is a classic choice or for a vegetable-focused option, this Asparagus and chervil quiche is also highly recommended. Scotch eggs have been popular on picnics since the Victorian era and are currently enjoying a renaissance. Try quail scotch eggs for something dainty, or for something a little different but equally picnic worthy, these Smoked mackerel scotch eggs with tartare sauce by James Mackenzie. And if you can’t decide between making pork pies or scotch eggs, this Sausage and egg picnic pie will satisfy both cravings.


Hearty grain-based salads, or those not centred on delicate, leafy greens, will survive higher temperatures better, so are the top choice for picnics. This Salad Niçoise with its tuna, soft-boiled eggs and sturdy vegetables is a great choice, or this Tomato, borlotti bean and goat cheese salad – both will still taste great, or even better, eaten in the sun.

If serving a dressed salad, store the vinaigrette separately and add to the dish when ready to eat – this will minimise sogginess and stop your fresh ingredients wilting on the journey. Clean jam jars are great for storing and shaking dressings.


No picnic would be complete without a beautiful loaf of bread. This Two Chefs ale bread goes fabulously with cheese, as does this Onion bread.

Butter is not easy to transport on a hot, picnic-worthy day, but it elevates a hunk of good bread to something magnificent. Wrap as much butter as you think you’ll need in well-chilled lettuce leaves to keep it sweet and fresh.